Sex positivity means being 900% culturally conscious and 800% inclusive to Kai Christmas — at least according to the sex education nutritional facts T-shirt they wore Sunday at a Planned Parenthood art festival.
Paintings, embroideries and stickers were displayed outside The Bull from 2-5 p.m. when five artists showcased their work centered around body positivity, reproductive justice and sex education. The event, deemed the “Sex Positive Art Fest,” was hosted by Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida.
Kids are curious about sex, said Christmas, the 26-year-old regional organizer of Planned Parenthood.
“It is only when we get the hesitations and uncomfiness of adults around us that teach us that maybe this isn't something we're supposed to learn about,” Christmas said.
Forty people attended the fest, including six children who painted canvases and shaded coloring sheets with abstract genitalia designs.
In addition to the artists’ tables, there was a Planned Parenthood table embellished with sex education pamphlets, coloring sheets and children’s books like “C is for Consent” and “Sex is a Funny Word.”
When Christmas was the community health educator for the branch in 2017, they said, they tried to bring more sex education into public schools, but the attempts were unsuccessful.
“That doesn't mean we aren't doing sex ed in the community,” Christmas said. “It just looks a little bit different — It's in after-school programs like your Boys and Girls Clubs; the Girls Place; your library.”
The fest was planned by Mal Lea, a 21-year-old Planned Parenthood intern. As a public health junior taking online courses at the University of South Florida, Lea said the Gainesville art scene was the perfect medium to help destigmatize sex.
It’s a need identified by the increasing number of people with sexually transmitted diseases in Florida, Lea said.
Alachua County had a higher rate of people with STDs than the state of Florida each year since 1970, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. In 2021, for every 100,000 people in Alachua, 1,370 had an STD.
Other counties that home universities have similar data. Leon, where Florida State University and Florida A&M University are located, and Duval, where the University of North Florida is located, are two examples. For every 100,000 people in their counties, 1,659 in Leon and 1,326 in Duval had STDs in 2021. The 2021 state rate was about 754.
“A lot of these younger, college-town counties have higher rates of infection because they are so population dense,” Lea said. “Fifteen through 24 year olds – they're starting life. They're getting out in the world and making decisions for themselves, but sometimes they don't have an educated decision.”
The festival’s artists ranged in experience selling their work.
Eva Garcia-Ferres, a 26-year-old UF psychology graduate student, said this was only her second time selling art in person. Her art, usually prints and stickers, centers around body positivity — depicting figures of all races and body types.
“I've caught myself making figures that rely on white standards of beauty, and I don't share that value,” Garcia-Ferres said. “I want my art to reflect what I value and my ethics.”
Ally Esteban, a 20-year-old UF industrial and systems engineer junior, also focuses on body positivity in their art. They’ve dabbled in embroidery and printing since starting to sell art two years ago, they said.
Sex education is important for young people, especially in the queer community, Esteban said.
Though this was the first sex positive art fest the regional Planned Parenthood hosted, Christmas said they hoped it would become an annual affair.
“Art is so important to every facet of our lives,” they said. “It is also another area that is constantly put down and disregarded, so I guess in that way, these two things make sense when you put them together.”
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Lauren Brensel is a journalism sophomore and a metro reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she's found going on mental health walks, being silly with friends, hiding from the public and reminding those around her that they did this song on Glee.